Whether you follow the tradition of Easter and its celebration as Anglo-Saxon or pagan in origin or as a religious holiday that denotes the crucifixion and resultant triumphant ascension of Christ in bodily form to Heaven; the fact remains that Easter is celebrated in a myriad of cultures, communities, and countries around the globe. It is viewed as an international day of celebration. The question poised to you here is, “Do you want good luck throughout the year?”
Traditionally it has been believed that the donning of new attire on Easter will bring a bout of good luck that will befall the entire year that lies ahead of you. Who of us doesn’t entertain the notion of future success and good fortune throughout the upcoming year? This can easily be achieved for the minor investment of a new outfit. Certainly, we could all benefit from good fortune in 2007, but there’s another adage that states…Any man who wears a new pair of trousers on Easter will have a happy marriage. Could this explain the high divorce rates of today? Does the fact many men stopped wearing new trousers on Easter provide us insight into the failings in many modern day romances? Perhaps we should reinvent this old tradition for the sake of marriage and prosperity?
Emperor Constantine of Rome, through the Council of Nicaea, instructed citizens to celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the vernal equinox of the New Year. Annually, this occurs between March and April (in 2007 on April 8th). Constantine furthered that the people of his kingdom were to wear their very best clothing on this day to celebrate the Holiness of the day. And, they did just that. Pagans, on the other hand, date Easter to the full paschal moon of the vernal equinox associating it with the advent of spring and reawakening of varied fauna, flora, and woodland creatures; however, they too celebrated the date with new attire designating a respect for the rebirth of their world and its co-inhabitants. Whether Anglo-Saxon, pagan, or religionist – the tradition of Easter dress in highest fashion has existed since early times.
So, Easter dress of either the religious practitioner or the non-believer has remained culturally significant since the dawn of recorded history, logic may attest this to be easily enough associating the reality that winter months were times to consummate and create new seasonal attire. When the paschal moon of the vernal equinox delivered improved warmer weather, new crops, and surrounding nature’s rebirth, as human beings we are inclined to wear newly honed clothing in celebration of those bright sunny days and springtime’s appeal.
Regarding the United States expressly, dressing in Sunday best for Easter celebrations dwindled soon after colonization (probably due to the difficulties associated with settling their new communities). Not long afterward, a revival began in the mid-Atlantic region of the country during the mid to late 1800’s. In 1860, Atlantic City’s Boardwalk came to life with well-dressers who strutted their way to Piety Hill; in 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes started the now infamous White House Easter Egg Roll and children owned the house lawns collecting hidden eggs and placing them in palm woven baskets; and in 1948 Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade quickly became known as the “happiest musical ever made.” This musical that starred Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, depicted the sensationalism of New York’s Easter Parade in the fashion district where the movers and shakers of the era took to strolling their Easter best along Fifth Avenue.
Being an old movie buff, it is easy to find Berlin’s Easter Parade entertaining, especially those vintage clothes and the manner of presentation that demonstrated the tradition of fashion’s best in the form of an annual Easter parade. Today, we seem to be ever more fashion conscious; yet seem to languish in the idea of Easter best or even Sunday dress. In 1948 women wore pill box or soldier style hats with a faille and veil. They donned gabardine, rayon, or taffeta dresses and suits with sweetheart, square, or V-necklines adding their matching gloves, purse, and shoes for good measure. Men adorned themselves with top hats and suits, walking canes, and leather gloves. Their children sported similar attire, where young ladies typically wore pastels or white with mating gloves, tiny purses, and dress shoes. And, little gents had suits matching their father’s with or without a boy’s cap.
In order to participate in these celebrations of dress it is almost a certainty that some painstaking preparation took place to achieve “Easter’s Best Attire.” Certainly, today, with the ease in purchasing we modernists enjoy, regardless of income or status, and with no necessary belief in either – we have the abilty to reawaken the spirit of the Easter Parades and it resides in each of us. Afterall, revitalizing these old traditions of spring fashion and nature’s rebirth may give us a year’s worth of good luck or save our marriages. Let’s reawaken this old tradition if we don’t honor it already.